It is not the same forestBy Rob Carrigan, firstname.lastname@example.org
When Rampart Range Road opened Oct. 10, 2014, more than two years after it was closed during the first day of the Waldo Canyon Fire, visitors were able to get a whole new understanding of the scope the devastating wildfire.
“I really wanted to see first-hand – sorry I did, and yet at the same time, glad I know for a fact that in some areas – 10 years, most likely will not be enough of an estimated time for healing from flooding. Great to see beaming, white and good-smelling Aspen trees, a few yellow leaves and five feet away on the side of the road, a ‘war zone - a look alike’ of total devastation.” Said local long-time resident Clara Meury who toured the area in the first few days the road was open.
“Whew! Glad I went and saw and came down off the Ramparts...with hope. Very thankful to see acres, miles, and hillsides of hundreds of dedicated footprints of CUSP (Coalition for the Upper South Platte) volunteers back-breaking work that has been done, and more yet to happen to protect our towns, and cities. Our communities. Our mountains. I love our Mountains,” Meury said.
Rampart Range Road offers an elevated vantage point to view the extent of the damage.
The fire, which was first reported June 23, 2012, had caused the evacuation of over 32,000 residents of Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Cascade, Chipita Park, Green Mountain Falls, Crystola, Woodland Park and partial evacuation of the United States Air Force Academy. As many as 346 homes were destroyed by the fire. U.S. Highway 24, was closed in both directions for days. The Waldo Canyon Fire resulted in insurance claims totaling more than $453.7 million. Until the Black Forest Fire, it was the most destructive fire in Colorado state history, as measured by the number of homes destroyed, (Black Forest fire destroyed 486 homes and damaged 28 others).
“If you choose to go into the Waldo Canyon area, expect a changed condition. It is not the same forest that many remember prior to the 2012 wildfire. There are many dangers so be very cautious with a plan of escape when the winds increase or it starts to rain. Your safety is our priority,”said Pikes Peak District Ranger Oscar Martinez, upon the road’s opening.
Visitors should use extreme caution and expect to encounter falling dead trees and limbs, steep slopes, stump holes and the potential for flooding in this burned area.